Behind the scenes of the C.A.T.S. campaign

by Daria Lanz on 20 September 2016

For the past 6 months, outside of office hours, I've been working with a team of fellow creatives, writing our own briefs with the intention to use our skills for good. We're called Glimpse, and we just launched our first project: C.A.T.S. – The Citizens Advertising Takeover Service.

Last Monday we took over 68 tube adverts in Clapham Common underground station, and filled them with pictures of cats. Yes. CATS! And it's been a huge success. We've hit global news, done countless interviews, been top trending on BBC, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Why cats? Everyone loves cats. And those who don't can still get a giggle out of the takeover, because we intentionally designed the posters to look quirky and a little bit awkward.

We tried to imagine a world where people were in charge of the images and messages they see in a public space.

But really, there was more to this then just cats. We were exploring the values our current society has, and dreaming up a world where we valued friends, family, and experiences over products and buying things. We aim to show a 'glimpse' of what these better futures could look like.

WB_CatsNotAds_Daria.jpgDaria at Clapham Common

One of the cool things about this project is that it was completely crowd-funded. We launched a Kickstarter campaign in May, asking the public whether they wanted to see all the advertising space in a station replaced with cats. The public responded, and we funded the project. It's an important reminder that we do have a voice en-masse. If we work together we can achieve even the craziest of ideas.

Perhaps surprisingly, we haven't had too much backlash from the advertising community. This was never a direct anti-advertising campaign. It was more about creating an unexpected experience in an unexpected environment. It is user experience at its most extreme.

WB_CatsNotAds_catflaps.jpgWe took over all available ad space

We tried to imagine a world where people were in charge of the images and messages they see in a public space. Could we, instead of being asked to buy something (many things), have a giggle on the way to work? Ask yourself – what is most valuable in your life? It may not be cats, but it is probably not a product you bought in a store.

I had the privilege of leading the design team for the takeover, and it's been an insightful journey. It was the first time I'd been involved in a crowdfunded project from the creator's side. We had many comical conversations around what the actual posters should look like – how to keep them close enough to the Kickstarter images while working with the new constraints we had.

We didn't have the ability to art direct a photoshoot with the cats, we had to use the photography that was supplied from Cats Protection and Battersea Cats and Dogs (we paired up with these two charities in the hopes that any gains from the PR would reach back to them). We also were constrained to printing CMYK only, and didn't have any backlit posters.

WB_CatsNotAds_commuters.jpgThousands use the station daily

This meant any large blocks of colour printed would likely look dull. Our Kickstarter imagery was very 80's – we used bright pinks and greens and yellows. Would backers feel disappointed if the final designs differed hugely from those bright colours? Would the photography supplied allow us to maintain the quirky, silly, awkward feel the cats in the Kickstarter visuals had?

One poster is dedicated to our Club £100+ pledgers. Anyone who pledged over £100 got their cat featured on this poster. One pledger, Randy, even flew over from Virginia for the day to see the takeover. He was chuffed, to say the least.

WB_CatsNotAds_100-backers.jpgOur poster for backers paying £100+

WB_CatsNotAds_backer.jpgRandy flew from Virginia to see the takeover

Throughout the many iterations we designed, we kept checking back with the original brief: keep it light-hearted, keep it fun. We want people to smile as they walk by it. I believe we achieved this.

On the Monday launch day I walked into the station, seeing the takeover for the first time. I rode down the escalators with a perma-grin. I listened in as pair after pair of commuters commented on the posters – laughing and loving it.

Check out our founder, James Turner's medium post for more information on the project and the collective, Glimpse.

To find out more about the collective:
To find out more about the project:

Christopher Swift says 08:12pm 04 Oct 2016

That is amazing. Congratulations. I am in love.

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